IP, Friend or Foe?

I did not know that I could develop such a strong opinion so quickly – especially one that is informed.  The argument for/against defining one’s ideas as tangible property in need of protection can lead to very complicated and controversial debates.  Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America and pro-copyright lobbyist, believes that IP is “private property” and the unauthorized use of it is “stealing.”  Attached below is a Soundcloud link for a debate held at Harvard University between he and Lawrence Lessig III, the founder of Creative Commons .

On the other hand, Stephen Kinsella calls IP unnecessary.  He says that in a world that experiences scarcity, property is necessary.  However, he says that in the internet world there is no scarcity of ideas, and thus – no scarcity.  This sentiment is echoed by Mike Masnick in his article, “If Intellectual Property is Neither Intellectual, Nor Property, What is It?”

I couldn’t disagree more.  Really.  I have an emotional response to the idea that, as Adam Kokosh says on his YouTube video, “As a human being [I] have the right to copy music, movies, text, and ideas,”  and that, “Every idea should belong to all of us.”  No, I’m sorry.  You do not have a right to my ideas.  I do not have a responsibility to share my ideas with you. Yes, it is nice if I do, but that should be my choice.  For this reason, I am glad that I have learned about Creative Commons.  I think this is a neat idea – the choice about “how” to share, but I certainly do not believe that copyright should be done away with or that IP is not a thing.

Kinsella talks about how if there were no property people would live happily… No way.  People like to own stuff, AND there will always be scarcity.  Take Kodiak for example.  Let’s say the island was public and anyone could live wherever they wanted.  According to Kinsella, this removes scarcity, right?  Wrong.  There will always be a scarcity of something someone wants: seclusion, easy access, water, trees, views, flat ground, hilly ground, farming ground, forests, sheltered ground… By nature, I think, people want what others have and for this reason the ownership of property is and the right to protect it will always be important.  However, there are always those who seek to take away rights and claim it is for the good of the whole.  This assignment just alerted me to another threat to my freedom.  Freedom to own…

Pros and Cons IP Argument PowerPoint seen above

Works Cited:

1.“Intellectual Property.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 July 2018.

2.Kokesh, AdamVsTheManRT. YouTube, YouTube, 20 May 2011.

3.Kinsella, Stephan. “The Case Against Intellectual Property.” Handbook of the Philosophical Foundations of Business Ethics, 2001, pp. 1325–1357.

4.“The Future of Intellectual Property on the Internet: A Debate.” SoundCloud, soundcloud.com/berkmanklein/the-future-of-intellectual-property-on-the-internet-a-debate.

5. Himma, Kenneth Einar. “The Justification of Intellectual Property: Contemporary Philosophical Disputes.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2006, doi:10.2139/ssrn.904264.

6. Himma, Kenneth Einar. “The Justification of Intellectual Property: Contemporary Philosophical Disputes.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2006, doi:10.2139/ssrn.904264.

7. Meme from: One Does Not Simply Make Memes and Not Consider Intellectual Property Issues: Social Media, Memetic Circulation, and Writing Studies

Author: admin

This is the launch of my masters journey!!

11 thoughts on “IP, Friend or Foe?”

  1. Well done. The only thing I would note is that your Kodiak example is about physical property, which is a different thing from IP in that multiple people can “own” the same thing without it being taken away or unavailable in any way to others. That is kind of at the heart of the discussion about treating intellectual property like physical property even though they have vastly different characteristics. And then digital properties, which have a kind of existence in the form of files, are similarly not zero-sum properties.

    I’m glad this inspired strong feelings!

    1. Thank you. Regarding the Kodiak example: Kinsella himself used real property in his point about scarcity. That is why I thought about it in the first place. Sounds like a communist way of looking at the world.

  2. Yes, but I’m making a somewhat different argument than Kinsella. I’m just noting that regardless of one’s ultimate thoughts on legislation and protection, the fact remains that physical and intellectual property have very different characteristics of ownership and while it is perfectly acceptable to conclude they should be treated the same despite those differences, the differences are real and seem rather important.

  3. Kat,

    I found myself convinced by Kinsella’s arguments, though since this is a new debate for me, I am glad to read your post and disagreement with the points he made. I was most struck by the idea that advancements are restricted with IP in the way it is currently implemented. Do you think that the current system calls for any revisions for the sake of advancements? Or should we fight for the individuals rights to IP?

    Thanks for the post!

    1. I don’t have a problem with revisions to the current system, but I don’t want us to throw the baby out with the bath water. People still have rights to own their own intellectual property.

  4. I really appreciate this post! Throughout my studies one of my professors made us list pros and cons on subjects/questions and made us research and present, telling us last minute what side we would be on. I learned so much in that class so I found it so unique that you started off your post with pros and cons. I too included one pro on it and it is I found it brings ALOOOOT of money into the US economy.
    Freedom to own is very complex and can vary on privilege (economic access, networking, etc). For example in the 19th or 20th century African American farmers who actually owned their land decreased by 98%, according to one of my textbooks. That is crazy! In the news, I just read yesterday someone bought a whole abandoned town in California for 1.2 million dollars. A family had owned all that land ‘decided’ it was time to sell it. Yet it goes to whoever has the money. Forget about all the Native American people displaced from that land that were put in reservations who are still restricted on what they “own” based on colonialist methods/labels of ownership. So complex.
    Hope I didn’t go too off in a tangent. Your post really made me think. Thank you!

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